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Cate Campbell missed out on Rio Olympics goal because of a lack of sleep, says coach

by ZwemZa on January 21st, 2018

The fallout from the misuse of controversial sleeping medication Stilnox continues to linger over Australian swimming, with Cate Campbell’s coach revealing a lack of sleep may have cost the star gold in Rio.

Stilnox was banned by the Australian Olympic Committee after revelations Grant Hackett formed a reliance on the drug and the brand becoming synonymous with bad behaviour following the sprint relay team’s “initiation” hijinks ahead of the London Games.

And while other sleep medication would have been available to Campbell in Rio, Swimming Australia’s policy that it should be used as a last resort and the fallout from sleeping tablet scandals of the past, is likely to have prevented the star sprinter from seeking relief.

Campbell’s coach Simon Cusack said his sprinter had less than three hours’ sleep the night before the Olympic final as she battled the massive weight of favouritism as Australia struggled in the pool.

“I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on 2016 and a lot of it was down to her not having enough sleep,” Cusack said about Campbell’s performance in the 100m freestyle, where she finished sixth, more than a second outside the world record she had set a month earlier.

“She’s one person who’s hopeless without sleep.”

Cate Campbell after the 100m freestyle final at the Rio Olympics.

Cate Campbell after the 100m freestyle final at the Rio Olympics.Source:AFP

Australia’s Olympic athletes were put through sleep workshops ahead of the Games to give them tools to be able to get to sleep without chemical aids.

But Cusack said when all else failed, athletes should be able to have a confidential discussion with a doctor and he wrestled with the fact governing bodies had so much control.

“In hindsight, sometimes you just need something to put you off to sleep,” he said.

“There are other sleeping tablets available, it’s a matter of finding something you can use that doesn’t affect your performance.

“Athletes need (to be able to) look at all possible interventions if they’re going to find themselves in that position in the future.”

Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren said he understood why Campbell may have felt she should not request medication.

“Cate is a genuine leader in everything she does and if there is a policy, she definitely wants to adhere to it,” Verhaeren said.

Stilnox is among the suite of medications available to athletes outside of the Olympics.

“We can’t ban non-banned substances,” Verhaeren said.

“If you say, what do we prefer, that’s another question. There’s several brands of sleep medication and there’s also the milder options like melatonin to get people to sleep as well.

Cate Campbell with her Rio medal after arriving home. Picture: Mark Evans

Cate Campbell with her Rio medal after arriving home. Picture: Mark EvansSource:News Corp Australia

“Sleep medication, in whatever brand, is always the last resource and is a discussion between an athlete and a doctor.”

Cusack said there had been some discussion after the Games about the issue but there needed to be a clearer policy moving forward.

“Certainly the whole Stilnox debacle has been a very distracting thing in Olympic sport,” he said.

“It’s something that we’ve got to put a plan around but not a plan that plays out in the media or between governing bodies.

“It should be purely between a doctor and their patient.”

Verhaeren agreed there needed to be a discussion but said it was not one that should be led by athletes or coaches.

“That is not a discussion that coaches, athletes and the swimming federation should run,” he said.

“We could be part of it but ultimately, this is what we have trained doctors for.

“In the team, obviously post 2012, we’ve had some conversations around supplement use altogether and those conversations can’t be transparent enough because a lot of people see benefits but don’t see the downside of supplements.

“So we’re very careful, we’re definitely not promoting substances but we’re promoting the right way and the right views.”

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